Ritchie Gallo sat on his track pony and watched the sun slowly rise. The mist and fog shrouding the Saratoga racetrack filtered the sun’s light and allowed him to look at the glowing orange ball without shading his eyes. This was his favorite time of day. The morning was still cool, so he could fully enjoy the muffled drumbeat of horses’ hooves hitting the dirt. Other trainers sat at the rail in front of the empty grandstands to watch their horses run. They measured speeds with stopwatches and made notes in their journals, detailing the progress their thoroughbreds were making in their exercise regime.
Gallo preferred to be mounted on a horse when his colts and fillies went through their paces. He was a horseman, and a horseman should be astride a horse.
As he stared down the backstretch, a colt burst from the mist like an apparition charging down an apocalyptic battlefield. Backlit by the rising sun, the horse shot bolts of breath through its nostrils, creating contrails of vapor that streamed down its body. When the racer and its rider drew closer, the ghostly appearance faded, and the animal was once again a brilliant athlete sculpted for speed and endurance.
Gallo’s track pony, General Custer, stood perfectly still, even when the thoroughbred thundered by just a few feet away. The General was a gelding. The removal of his family jewels had done wonders for his personality, making him calm and docile around people and other animals. However, his bulk and strength prevented him from the speed desired in thoroughbred champions, so Gallo had purchased him eight years ago to be his mobile work platform. Together, they had spent countless hours observing some of the most expensive creatures in the world—thoroughbreds preparing themselves for the glory and riches that come with racing success.
Although Gallo now lived in Kentucky, he looked forward to these late summer races in his hometown of Saratoga. His family bred horses on a farm just a few miles from the track, so he’d been around thoroughbreds all his life, even dreamed of being a jockey as a child. His quest to develop the skills necessary to guide a twelve-hundred-pound animal around a one-mile oval at more than forty miles per hour began with a summer job working as an exercise rider. But those dreams were dashed when a growth spurt at age eighteen made a racing career impractical.
With no prospects of earning a living in the saddle, Gallo decided to become a trainer. After graduating from college with a major in animal science, his father connected him with one of the nation’s top trainers at a farm in Kentucky. There, Gallo learned the art and science of developing racehorses.
He endured long hours, hard work, and low pay for thirteen racing seasons before he was asked to join the team at a small breeding and training farm near Lexington. They were looking for a young man with a great eye for horses and a willingness to use technology and science to create the ultimate methodology for turning a talented horse into a winning racehorse.
For four tough seasons, Gallo and his staff of grooms and horse attendants travelled across the country, winning races at regional tracks and then major venues like Belmont, Santa Anita, Saratoga, and Churchill Downs. He earned a reputation as a trainer who could design the right regimen for select thoroughbreds and ethically prepare them to compete and win. Gallo took on several horses that other trainers and breeding farms passed over and trained them to run in the money at good quality races. Over time, his compensation grew to six-figures—excellent pay in an industry notorious for its demanding schedules and low wages. Despite his success, Gallo knew he still hadn’t been lucky enough to train a world-class racehorse, one that could compete and win at the highest level.
At least, not until now.
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